Up Close with Brit Footwear Designer Sophia Webster

Sophia Webster decided that her favorite animal was a flamingo only after she discovered that unicorns weren’t real. She has imbued her eponymous shoe line with that same longing to embrace the fantasy that lies within. 
Webster’s Fall/Winter 2013 presentation at London fashion week resembled a magical polychromatic forest—or in her own words, “a rainbow Narnia.” Resting against pastel-painted trees or atop oversized mushrooms, the models sported an eclectic range of footwear, from thigh-high sandals made of hologram leather to brightly colored metallic pumps with tribal zigzags. “They’re sexy and they’re chic, but there’s an element of fun,” she comments on her quirky designs. “Hopefully people see that as refreshing, you know?”
Webster was born in Durban, South Africa, where her mother’s father had immigrated, but she grew up in Kent in South East England. In 2010, Webster graduated from the Royal College of Art, where she completed a Master’s course in footwear. In her first year, she began assisting the acclaimed shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood, where she came to admire her mentor’s industrious approach to design: “He’s very focused, very driven. He really pushes the boundaries and if he has an idea, he’ll always just go for it and won’t give up until it’s executed exactly how he wants it.”

Now, two years later, Webster reflects on her recently launched label: “I think Nicholas’s shoes are very sexy, but maybe in more of an aggressive way, whereas mine are very sort of feminine and whimsical.” She says she designs for women who “don’t take themselves too seriously,” naming Vogue Japan’s editor at large Anna Dello Russo as an ideal client. “You know she’s just sort of the ultimate in extravagance and luxury,” she adds.

With her shoes springing up in retailers across the globe—Dover Street Market, Harvey Nichols, David Jones, Colette, and Bergdorf Goodman, to name a few, Webster’s next move will be to open her own store (she says the first one would have to be in London). “I’d love to have sort of gone into different product categories,” she adds, “but for now I’m just trying to take each day as it comes really. Trying not to run before I can walk.”


Photography courtesy Sophia Webster
Words Martin Léon Hamery